Task-Oriented Listeners

Task- or content-oriented listeners, whether in personal or workplace contexts, are the efficiency experts of interpersonal conversations.  They get quite excited about the technical content in conversations; they possess a knack for considering all sides of any given issue. Like the critical listener, this listening type also engages in multi-tasking, but rather than merely evaluate message content, they spend time drilling down deeply for details.  If they perceive the speaker does not have expertise in his or her topic, they can lose interest quickly. Even more intimidating to the other speaker is their habit of posing challenging questions in an attempt to elicit more information.

This type of listener is greatly appreciated in businesses and organizations because they have a propensity for clarifying content, accomplishing many things proficiently and engendering support for ideas, not just their own.  This listening style is also the best at playing the devil’s advocate.  They are hard to argue with because they enter conversations armed with the facts and they are not afraid to be challenged.  This is the charts-and-graphs listener, the ones who quote credible experts to prove their points and challenges others to bring similar data into the discussion.

Given all of this, this style may become counter-productive when more careful deliberation is called for or concern for feelings needs to be acknowledged.  As their frustration rises, they risk alienating the other speaker with both verbal and non-verbal signals that minimizes non-essential details. This can result in their taking a long time to make decisions. This listening style can also be very tricky, culturally speaking.  If the other speaker comes from a culture where being brusque or blunt is considered impolite, they may be left with an impression that the listener did not intend to give. In individualistic cultures, like that of in the U.S., more leeway is given to those who are task-driven.  However, collectivistic cultures place a higher premium on emotions and feelings. When their importance is minimized in an effort to get things done quickly it may cause more problems than it solves.  Further, if the listener implies that there is only one right answer, theirs, they risk losing respect. Ignoring another’s perspectives, insights and their need to feel included will not make for a very cooperative relationship.

The takeaway on this type of listening style is

  • They are efficient and encourage others to be more organized
  • They tend to be attentive to the details or technical points in a conversation, not its emotional content
  • They can assist others in focusing and considering all sides of an issue
  • They ask questions for clarity and understanding